(WSPA) – This past summer marked the first-time streaming beat out broadcast and cable. Scammers are aware that more people continue to download apps to watch television.
As one Spartanburg County woman learned, it is far too easy to get caught in their web when activating a new service.
How to spot the warning signs in this 7NEWS Consumer Exclusive: Bogus Streaming Charges.
Randy Butcher in Duncan is the first to admit she’s not tech-savvy.
“I didn’t even know what streaming was,” she said with a laugh.
A few months back when she tried to activate the YouTube Live App she went online for help.
“I thought I was safe because I called them. Nobody called me to ask for this information,” she said.
Butcher said the way she found the number was through a Google search.
Her daughter also came over to help and there she had it live TV. However, her June expenses showed Butcher was double billed, on two different dates, the exact same amount and both said “Google YouTube TV.”
“I thought it was strange, like it was an error, they couldn’t help me, they couldn’t see the other charge, they only saw the one, that’s why I said well just cancel it, and that’s when I thought it would be over,” Butcher said.
One month later, she got hit with another single YouTube TV charge. So, she promptly changed her debit card number.
“Come August, I saw another charge pending for $69.54 and that one I couldn’t believe because how did they get my debit card, I already canceled my debit card,” Butcher said.
Before the scam escalates further, 7NEWS spoke with IT Expert Kevin Hodges, with USC Upstate, about why Butcher’s Google search put her at risk.
WHY HER GOOGLE SEARCH PUT BUTCHER AT RISK
“Being able to use Google searches as a weapon against people, changes things dramatically,” Hodges said. “Because if you can make a search look a little better, and in this case, the scammers are doing that, they are worded a little bit better than the actual YouTube activation search, you click it and that’s where they are getting you.”
So why are these scam sites showing up so high on Google search results?
It is partly because the scammers are using Google to make and host their websites, which also makes them look more legitimate because they have a Google.com address.
Another technique is scam ads. Butcher showed 7NEWS a screenshot of the search she used with the YouTube name and image and the word ‘advertisement,’ easily to overlook.
In a statement, Google told 7NEWS, “We have strict policies in place to prevent harmful scam advertisements from running on our platforms. Upon review, we found that the ad in question violated our policies. We’ve removed the ad and took appropriate enforcement action against the associated advertising account.”
Google also told 7NEWS its spam-fighting systems enable the search engine to keep results “99% spam free.” You can see the full statement here.
THE SCAM ESCALATES
Unfortunately, the loss of a combined $210 dollars led Butcher into a deeper scam.
“What prompted me to go further is that I wanted my money back,” Butcher said.
Butcher once again Googled what she thought was a YouTube number, one that differed than the prior number, and was instructed to download an app to verify her identity so she could get reimbursed.
“He just kept saying, follow my steps and I’m trying to help you, I’m trying to help you get your money back, we are trying to take care of this,” she said.
THE RED FLAGS: CASH APPS AND REQUESTS TO DOWNLOAD APPS
The scammers tricked her into paying them the $210 the cash app Zelle.
After everything, they tried once more, claiming they would return what was now a loss of $420 dollars.
“I switched accounts, and he said no, no, no go back to the other one, and that’s when I realized, he could see what I’m doing.”
That security app turned out to be Team Viewer, a legitimate tool that allows other users to see your screen.
“I felt angry, and I felt violated,” Butcher said.
Butcher knows now that legitimate businesses rarely, if ever, use cash apps for payment. That is a big red flag.
IT’S NOT JUST YOUTUBE TV
Hodges said while YouTube, which is owned by Google, is a prime target, all TV apps are susceptible.
“All their services are subject to this, every one of them because they all operate very similarly or the same way so it’s just a matter of time before they all become a victim of it,” Hodges said.
7NEWS was able to help Butcher recoup some of the money she lost through assisting with an appeal to her bank’s fraud department.
“I don’t want this to happen to anybody else,” Butcher said.
TV apps can be a great source of entertainment as long as scammers don’t make you their own amusement.